Securing water for climate resilient livelihoods


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Why water? According to Standard and Poor's rating agency, Cambodia is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. It experiences extremes of droughts and floods, which impact on smallholder farmers' incomes and livelihoods.

The Royal Government of Cambodia through the National Climate Change Strategic Plan aims to adapt to the changing climate by promoting resiliency through improving food, water and energy security. SNV's Climate Smart Agriculture Asia project in Cambodia targets vegetable crops in Svay Rieng province and works with cassava farmers in Tboung Khmum.

On 9 December 2014, SNV organised a workshop in Phnom Penh to discuss the findings of a study: 'Options for promoting water use efficiency and storage systems among smallholder farmers in the face of climate change'. The meeting was attended by several NGOs, government agencies and smallholder farmers and was chaired by the Deputy Director General of the General Directorate of Agriculture (GDA). 

The workshop touched on a range of water options, from large communal water management systems to very small-scale possibilities. Workshop participants realised that the key is to determine which technology to use on a case-by-case basis. For farmers, the priorities are cost, ease of access and maintenance. For technology developers, efficiency often tops the bill, though this increases the cost and requires user training.

Water storage takes many shapes, from boreholes, to shallow wells, tarpaulin ponds and communal dams. According to the presenters, household level water storage systems were easier to manage compared to communal dams which required the involvement of all users. Often in Cambodia, commune or village administration play a crucial role in water storage and management.

Participants said that water use efficiency should be the next area of focus. Despite demanding relatively higher maintenance costs, drip irrigation was found to reduce the amounts of energy and water needed. There was also a realisation that a lot of information and experiences are worth sharing, but are scattered among different agencies and projects all over the country. A proper system to harness this knowledge still doesn't exist.

Most of the technologies available in Cambodia still rely on imported materials and skills. Could government prioritise and promote low cost irrigation systems and technologies for smallholders while technology developers work on improving and reducing the cost? This would require closer collaboration between government and various stakeholders to develop more informed policies.

Weather and climate information assimilation would be another great step in enabling the adoption of climate smart techniques, said participants. The workshop ended on a high note with participants noting the importance and benefits of knowledge sharing in the future.